Lightradio, the new technology that Alcatel-Lucent recently unveiled. In a nutshell, Lightradio technology uses components that are much smaller than those used in cell towers today. Furthermore, these components have the capability to be placed almost anywhere (walls, poles, roofs, etc.) to provide wireless communication.
Naturally, this development is fueling speculations that cell towers are approaching the end of their time, which will have a major impact on Leaseholders. The reasoning used is simple – because Lightradio equipment is much smaller than what are being used now, they won’t need as much space on the tower anymore. And since they can be placed virtually anywhere, some cell towers may even be rendered useless.
If you’re wondering how probable that can be, perhaps some more detail regarding Lightradio will help.
Lightradio technology basics
Lightradio technology is designed to replace two main components of a cell tower: the large cabinet-like structure at the base of the tower known as the base station, and the protrusions near the top known as the antenna elements. In their place will be two small devices that can each be held on the palm of one’s hand.
One of these devices is the baseband chip, which will take care of processing tasks that are done in the base station in the current set up. The other device is the Lightradio cube, which will function as an antenna with power amplifying capabilities.
One cube can work on its own or it can be stacked together with other cubes to form different kinds of cell sites such as macrocells, picocells, and femtocells. In addition, whereas today’s cell towers typically house separate cell antennas each supporting a different standard such 2G, 3G, or 4G, a single cube can already support all of them.
As a result, when a cube or a stack of cubes is placed on a tower, the space they’ll occupy will only be about one-third or one-fourth of the space currently occupied by today’s antenna elements.
There’s more. Remember those baseband chips mentioned earlier? They don’t have to be placed anywhere near the tower anymore. Instead, they’ll be made part of what is known as a cloud network. That practically gets rid of those bulky base stations.
So assuming the wireless companies are going to implement this technology, does that mean we’re going to have to say goodbye to those towers?
How will it affect the future of cell towers?
If we look at it from a business perspective, it wouldn’t make sense to just take down structures that cost Billions of Dollars to build. Besides, the tower companies have also already committed billions of dollars for their next build outs. They couldn’t just scratch that out just because a new technology has come along.
From a technical perspective, getting rid of towers is the last thing you’d want to do. All of the data that goes to your wireless devices, including smart phones, tablet PCs, pocket PCs, laptops, and even USB dongles are carried by radio waves.
Now, radio waves lose their intensity whenever they pass through walls, foliage, people, ceilings and other obstructions. The closer the source of these radio waves are to the ground level, the more obstructions they’ll encounter before they can get to your devices.
So, excluding indoor areas, where’s the best place to put those cubes in order for the waves coming from them to meet the least amount of obstructions? That’s right. Up there on those towers. Sure you can place cubes inside buildings or along side streets but you’ll still have to position many of them on towers in order to achieve maximum coverage.
In any business, the aim is to maximize the use of existing infrastructure to accommodate upcoming ones. Thus, the only logical and prudent approach would be to continue using those towers by mounting those Lightradio cubes on them.
How will it affect cell tower leaseholders?
Leaseholders are constantly bombarded with offers from different companies to acquire their lease. Since this new technology has gained worldwide press, many companies are using this information to get Leaseholders to “sell now versus holding their leases until they become valueless”.
With that said, most Leaseholders have heard similar stories from Salespeople regarding mergers, DAS and Femtocells as reasons to sell now before they are left with nothing. Overall, most leaseholders are doing their due diligence and consulting professionals before they make a major decision which will impact them for many years to come. As a whole, Leaseholders have become much more educating regarding the cell tower industry and they are doing their homework before they make any decisions regarding their cellular leases.